Finding Meaning in Our Messes
I recently cleaned out my closet. I’m happy to report that I didn’t find any skeletons, proverbial or otherwise. For weeks, months really, the clothing chaos kept nagging at my psyche. Why so many clothes? Why such disorganization? Why do I let it get this way? Why can’t I commit to carving out time to make sense of this mess? Funny story. Nothing has changed since I was four years old. I vividly recall being instructed to clean my room, to pick up my toys and stuffed animals and Legos and piles of clean clothes and Matchbox cars…anything that wasn’t where it belonged. So, in order to get the task accomplished and to be permitted to move on to the next fun thing, I crammed everything into my closet and closed the door. It may have been my greatest achievement to date. I was so proud, yet something inside didn’t sit well. I remember feeling uneasy, curious what would happen when my work was “inspected” by my parents, and hoping my “cram and slam” cleaning approach would be discovered as revolutionary rather than remedial. As you can imagine, the look on my mom’s face when she entered the room was priceless. At first, surprised by the apparent cleanliness, she glanced toward the bulging bi-fold closet door and was surprised once again when it burst open on its own only to reveal my mountain of stuff. I was found out. I’m 39 years old. 17 years ago I married my wife Kate. We have two sons: Avery just started high school, Aaron is in 7th grade. This little clan of mine lives in Chicagoland. If you ask these three dear people, or anyone in my sphere of influence, they’ll tell you that I love to leapfrog through life from one event and experience to the next. It’s what brings me deep joy. Traveling to new places, trying new things, meeting new people, creating new opportunities for others…all of this is exciting to me. Yet, each of these people would not hesitate to turn me in as someone who has a hard time keeping things tidy from one day to the next. I still leave piles of stuff laying around. It’s not unheard of to find stacks of clothes, books, junk mail, papers, tools, paint supplies in my “wake” as I go through life. I figure, if I’m still thinking about it and I intend to come back to it someday, why put it away?
“Wake” is the Life We Leave Behind
The idea of “wake” as a life metaphor has gripped me on multiple levels over the past several years. Kate and I have adopted this term in our home as we coach our sons on cleaning up their messes and building on their character. It’s important to me that the life we leave behind be intentional. Just like waves behind a boat, our words and actions impact this world for better or worse on a daily basis. I recently discovered that Dr. Henry Cloud talks about this metaphor in his book, Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality. Jon Mertz has a great post for leaders on this at Thin Difference too. Cloud says the “wake” of our lives is made up of tasks and relationships (p.16). I couldn’t agree more. In my short time on planet earth, I’ve discovered that how we engage in activity (doing) and how we engage with others (relating) must work well together for character (being) to stay afloat. That is integrity and it must be intentional.
For 20 years, I’ve been increasingly mesmerized by a quote credited to Martin Luther King, Jr. – “The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important.” In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His most dedicated followers, “You will be my witnesses,” a life commissioning that would result in pointing people toward God or away from Him. When I think of “wake” I immediately wrestle with the seen and unseen parts of my life and wonder what I’m leaving behind that truly matters. This blog is where I’ve decided to start working out this concept as it’s one of my deepest convictions. My invitation to you is simple. Join me in asking the question, “What’s my wake?” My hope is that this blog will be more than another mid-life crisis making its way onto the web. It’s designed to inspire you, and me, to become intentional about the life we leave behind. It’s an ongoing oasis for wrestling with what it means to live, love, and lead with great purpose. And, it’s a place where discovering what it means to die to self can be freely explored. We all have only one shot at life, and yet in Christ we have a shot at renewed life every moment of every day. The Holy Spirit is standing by to stay in step with us as we seek to become just like Jesus so our “wake” points people to Him. You and I can choose from one moment to the next what kind of “wake” we are uniquely created and called to leave behind.
Join me in the journey.
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